Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Brave and The Bold #50 (October-November, 1963)

"A mysterious capsule hovering in the night sky over Star City... A startling prison-break by convicts who could've escaped at any time... A daring raid on a quiet museum just to steal a rock! What terrible threat lies behind these bizarre events?"

Green Arrow and his kid sidekick Speedy answered the "Arrow-Signal" from a warden requesting they stop escapees before they exited his prison, but the convicts displayed super-human strength and resilience while effecting their departure. Investigating further, the Emerald Archer found fleshy masks worn by the convicts, possibly to hide their inhuman true features. That very night, the cons swiped a mildly radioactive meteor on exhibit that had fallen two years prior, leaving only an impression left by the rock as a clue. "Speedy, we need help on this case-- and the best man to give it to us is... the Martian Manhunter!"

Based on eyewitness descriptions, G.A. drew up a police quality sketch, which resembled an alien-- maybe even Martians! "Who better to help us corral them than the Martian Manhunter!" Green Arrow put out the call for his fellow Justice Leaguer. "So not long afterward, following a radio call over a secret wavelength..." Manhunter's immaterial form passed into the archers' "Arrow-Cave" headquarters. "Greetings, Green Arrow and Speedy! What's this about other aliens being here on Earth?"

At about that same time, a spaceman wearing a featureless spherical helmet named Vulkor claimed the meteor from those very same extra-terrestrials. "Two more pieces remain... and tonight, we will recover the second!" That was the plan, until the harbor patrol blew the whistle on the dockside meeting. Vulkor took his compact orb of a spaceship with its giant appendage sticking out the bottom and crushed the police boat between its artificial fingers.

A flare attracted Martian Vision and that of the archers, who found that the crooks were indeed Martians of an unusually squat variety (or maybe that was just dodgy perspective?) "Go Manhunter! Look at the Manhunter in action, G.A.! That was a great idea, calling him in!" The Martian gang may have looked like tween Go-Go dancers (or as Speedy put it, "queer fish,") but they bashed Manhunter's butt! "You forget-- our powers are as great as yours here, Manhunter! Hold him... I'll make Vulkor a gift of our fellow Martian!" It's funny that these Martians needed masks to assume human form, although they may have just wanted to retain their Martian abilities while incognito (as that was a hang-up at the time, especially for Martian criminals.)

Green Arrow and Speedy tried to help, but their "Arrow-Plane" was forced out of the air by Vulko's wacky flying machine. A "para-arrow" (I kid you not) slowed the jet's death dive to a survivable drift. Concurrently, "There! ...Our Martian playmate can't take strong dose of equal Martian muscle!" The Martians left the Manhunter "beaten to his knees." A stunned Speedy asked, "How could this happen? Vulkor and his Martian thugs beat us, G.A.!" J'onzz confessed, "I overlooked the fact that I was meeting powers equal to my own, for the first time since I've been living on Earth! We've got to work out a plan of action, Green Arrow!"

Manhunter returned to his secret mountain headquarters to facilitate a trip (or in one retelling just to check his computer records.) "The Robot Brain, with which the late Professor Erdel accidentally brought me to Earth... I must use it once more to return to Mars!" Although J'onn J'onzz had been stranded on Earth for seven years due to complications related to the Robot Brain, Dr. Alvin Reeves had finally managed to repair it in Detective Comics #301. "Complex circuits hum, teleporting the Alien Sleuth across the void of space, on an incredible journey to his home planet..."

Manhunter was told by the All-Martian Council that Vulkor was an "arch-criminal recently escaped from long imprisonment!" Further, "Our scientists developed a super-weapon to defend our planet... Vulkor stole the only working model, which was destroyed when he was captured in a furious fight! We have never been able to duplicate the weapon-- it is gone forever! Without it, Vulkor is no real threat to us!" The Sleuth from Outer Space countered that the powers the gang had acquired on Earth, as well as Vulkor's atom-powered capsule, made them a menace anew. "Since we have no official relations with Earth, we cannot send our space police to help you!" The Alien Atlas knew it was up to him to "bring Vulkor to Justice, with the help of my Earth ally-- Green Arrow!"

Back in Star City, the archers were on patrol in their Arrow-Car. Green Arrow fumed "No sign of Vulkor and his bunch anywhere!" Speedy bemoaned, "All the same, I wish the Manhunter were back! Our new arrows look great-- but how will they work against that alien menace?"

Just then, a police scanner alerted the pair to the "alien gang attacking Highmount Radar Station!" The archers located and disturbed the Martian gang. Their ultra-high frequency sonic arrows were "hitting the acute Martian ears like shock waves!" The Martians were rescued by the Capsule Master's deployment of a force wall, prompting Green Arrow to fire himself out of his "Arrow-Car" by means of its "Catapult Seat" to pursue. A force field halted Green Arrow's attempts to disable the ship, and its mechanical arm captured the Emerald Archer. Manhunter arrived, but was unable to penetrate the force field before the ship sped away. Speedy was again incredulous, as he watched his mentor spirited away while "Manhunter's tumbled like a rock into that lake!"

Speedy and the recovered Manhunter spent a short time together, trying to figure out Vulkor's plan and rescue Green Arrow. J'onn J'onzz compared a shadow image cast by the radioactive museum meteor with a mechanical part his x-ray Martian Vision spotted the alien gang making off with, and deduced that the super-weapon Vulkor once possessed was not truly destroyed. "When his henchmen took refuge on Earth years ago, they dismantled the weapon and hid each piece in a different place!" Manhunter had a hunch the Martians' presence on Highmount Hill, where Green Arrow was lost, denoted the probable hiding place of the final weapon piece. A concerned Speedy asked, "But what about Green Arrow? Can we risk tackling Vulkor while G.A.'s in his hands?" Oliver Queen then stumbled into the Arrow-Cave with the tale of his escape from the aliens. His timing was perfect, as Manhunter needed archers to fire incendiary arrows at his fellow Martians to exploit their natural weakness to fire.

The trio staked out the Highmount until they cornered Vulkor on foot, but Green Arrow then turned on Manhunter! The Capsule Master proclaimed, "*Ha, Ha* They joined forces to combat me-- but I've turned one against the other!" Speedy used a foam arrow to douse the Ace Archer's flames, while Vulkor made his exit. J'onzz thanked Speedy, then set about figuring out why the Emerald Archer "blacked out" and attacked. Manhunter had more than one reason to appreciate Speedy, who had also fired a traceable radio transmitter arrow at Vulkor. A one-way microphone revealed that Vulkor had gained the ability to mind-control Oliver Queen, so Green Arrow would be a potential liability for the rest of the mission. It also clued the green team in to where the Capsule Master would test his now completed super-weapon... an atomic-powered sea liner dubbed the Neptune.

The heroes decided to board the vessel in civilian guise. "I hope our plan works, Manhunt-- I mean, John Jones!" On sight of incoming trouble, a spare Arrow-Plane took flight, and intercepted Vulkor's sphere. Green Arrow ejected and fired an arrow with "magnetized particles" that absorbed the spaceship's force field. The Martian crew attempted to manually remove the particles, but were blown off the ship by Green Arrow's super-breath. Oliver Queen, disguised as Manhunter, continued to fly the Arrow-Plane with Speedy while the Martian "Green Arrow" boarded the capsule. Vulkor was unable to control J'onn J'onzz mentally, instead extorting his inaction by threatening the Neptune. The true modern day Robin Hood used his plane to jar the sphere, giving the other "Emerald Archer" a chance to stop Vulkor. "I'll destroy that ship... Earth... Mars--!"
"You'll never fire that weapon, Vulkor!"

Speedy and Green Arrow shot fireworks arrows to turn back the recovered Martian gang of four as they flew in pursuit, while Vulkor's orb plunged into the sea. The pressure of the depths crushed the ship and its super-weapons, while Manhunter used "a little Martian judo" to subdue Vulkor. A "Brainwave Energizer" hidden in G.A.'s bow grip was discovered to have effected the mind-control, and was removed. Manhunter determined cruel punishment was in order. "Now, I'm off to imprison these criminals in a fiery volcano! If you ever need me again..."

"We'll send for you, Manhunter! It was great being teamed with you...Earth's lucky to have you on it's side!"

"Wanted--The Capsule Master!" was by Bob Haney and George Roussos. When The Brave & The Bold switched formats from anthology to super-hero team-ups, J'onn J'onzz joined Green Arrow as the very first pairing of the series. I've never been a fan of Silver Age comics, and some of Haney's work is just mind-numbingly awful, but when he's as on as he is here, he's a gas. The art wasn't up to the standards set by Joe Certa in Manhunter's solo strip, but it was solid enough. Vulkor was a fun oddball, and I wish both he and the Arrow/Atlas friendship had been given more of a chance in comics.

DC Comics Presents


will_in_chicago said...

This is a classic Silver Age tale. Thanks for sharing this.

LissBirds said...

I really wish they would bring the current Brave and the Bold book back. I was really enjoying that. Still waiting for that Adam Strange one that was due out in August 2011...